Friday, August 08, 2008

The saga of the flat tire (cont.)

After finally getting a handle on the jack, so to speak, I got the bike-tire spare mounted, tossed the still hot & smoking flat tire into the trunk, and get the heck out of Dodge. I'm not a fan at all of these mini-spares that have replaced the full-size (read: actually usable) spares we used to have. Driving on the bike tire didn't feel much better than driving on the flat had, but at least there was no smoke or smell. But a 50 mph limit when using the spare? Afraid I just don't have the bone in my ankle that will allow me to do that; I did 60. Painful, that.

I had all day at work to stew about the imminent slow drive home and what to do about replacing the tire. It's a Yokohama Advan which, as (my) luck would have it, is a $200 tire. That went flat at 18,000 miles. I found that fact to be quite irritating, and got to wondering if it would be covered under warranty. Note that I am not that naive, normally. I know that a tire warranty is more useless than last week's lottery ticket. At least the lottery ticket has a one in gazillion chance of paying off; I don't think I've ever heard of a tire warranty paying one red cent. Or one Yen, for that matter. But I thought it was at least worth asking the dealer.

The dealer is, of course, over on the home side of town, so I had to make the 35 mile loop on the bike tire. I just snugged in behind a big, slow truck and slowly cruised along, wondering if the bike tire had a ten mile limit similar to the low speed rating and what exactly I was going to do when it blew out. I don't carry a spare for the spare, after all. There's a dealer over on the work side of town, but I wouldn't have been able to get a ride home from there.

I dropped the car at the dealer and headed home to await their verdict. It was quick. "Tough Sushi, buddy, warranty won't cover it. Oh, by the way, because you have an all wheel drive car and they are sensitive to disparities in tire size, you need four new tires."

18,000 miles on a $900 set of tires before needing full replacement? Not that impressive. I told him to "not take this the wrong way, but if I'm buying four new tires to replace a set that got my all of 18,000 miles, I'm shopping it around." He took it fine; they're a car dealer, not a tire shop.

I went back to the dealer and moved the car across the street to Tire Discounters. I've been wanting to throw them some business for a couple of years now. Back when they first opened, I brought one of the Miata tires in for a patch after it had picked up a nail. (The Miata was a nail magnet for the first couple of months that I had it - three in two months!!) When I went to pick up the repaired tire and asked how much I owed them, they just waved a hand and said don't worry about it. I haven't forgotten that, and it is exactly the type of great service that I miss so much these days. I wanted to reward them with my (paying) business.

It wasn't to be. Don Quixote had his windmill to joust with, I had this written Yokohama warranty with more flowery, promising language than a wine review. The Tire Discounter guy wasn't a Yokohama dealer, though, so he couldn't address its applicability, veracity, or utility. As he put it, "it pains me to do this, but I'm going to have to send you to Discount Tire." Now, me having just had a birthday numbered in the high forty's and therefore having become incrementally more forgetful and confused, I had to look at the sign on the side of his store to determine just why, in fact, he did not know that we were already at Discount Tire. Ah! We were at Tire Discounters, the polar opposite of Discount Tire. I could see why it pained him. Those two must surely be mortal enemies.

It pained me, too. Not only because I wanted to give Tire Discounters my business, but also because going from one to the other involved another drive on the bike tire, which surely at that point must have been close to having given its all to the cause. Nothing for it, though, so back on the road. Only to find Discount Tire closed for the day at the late hour of 6:20. Now that's the kind of customer-friendly service to which I have become accustomed. I decided then and there that if the Yokohama warranty was not going to contribute to the cause, the bike tire was going to get yet another road trip back to Tire Discounters.

The key to the car was slipped into an envelope and tossed into the feeble looking night key depository. As I was doing that, I thought that if I was ever on the lam and needed a car, I'd just find the nearest Discount Tire and grab a key out of the box. Upon a few seconds more thought, I realized that that wasn't such a great plan. The car I'd be stealing would probably have a flat tire, and recent experience has shown me that you won't get very far on one of those.

The Discount Tire guy called me at work first thing in the morning, which is a bad time to catch me on Wednesdays due to a weekly report that I have to do - it's a long, detailed process to put the report together and I hate interruptions while doing it. He told me that the tire wasn't covered under the warranty because it had road hazard damage, which is a catch-all for every tire failure imaginable. Again, you'd have better odds with a lottery ticket. Anyway, I told him to just lock the key in the car and we'd come pick it up late, late at night, long after they've closed and gone home. Like 6:30 or so.

About ten minutes later, I got to thinking that I might be letting my dedication to Tire Discounters influence my decision making a little too much, and there was certainly a lot to be said for just having the tire replaced where it was and not having to drive around on that bike tire anymore. I called the guy back and asked him what he could do for us. He said that we were right on the edge of being able to replace just the one tire, and that if it was his car, that's what he'd do. $226. I told him to go ahead and do it.

"I can't. I already locked the key in the car."


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